Are Calgary DUI Laws Fair? A Defence Lawyer Weighs In

As you know quite well if you've read my previous articles on the subject, the tough new impaired driving or "DUI" laws Alberta put into effect back in 2012 have been challenged by many, here in Calgary and throughout the province.

In the press and in the courts, these laws have been decried as unfair, unjust, and even illegal, with claims that things like automatic penalties (your license is supposed to be suspended from the moment you are arrested for a DUI involving a blood alcohol content of greater than .08, even before a trial) violate certain rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The courts have consistently upheld the laws, including the provisions allowing for automatic penalties and certain law enforcement practices that have been questioned.

Many people still insist that the DUI laws in Calgary and throughout Alberta are unfair, and the complaint is understandable. I agree that the laws go too far, making everyone a suspect, removing the presumption of innocence that is sacred to the Canadian criminal justice system, and giving law enforcement wide latitude to encroach on civil liberties in the name of detecting crimes before there is any evidence of wrongdoing.

Yet despite the injustices of these laws, these laws have been upheld by the courts and are still in effect. So though I may agree with clients and others that the laws are unfair, this agreement doesn't directly help anyone who has been accused of a DUI in Calgary.

"Fair" Is Not a Black-and-White Legal Concept

"Fair" is hard to define even in the simplest of circumstances, and in many if not most legal contexts it is a serious matter of debate. Impaired driving or DUI charges are no different, there a complex set of opposing needs that have to be balanced to create "fairness," and determining what "fair" means is all but impossible.

It's certainly not fair for someone obeying traffic laws to be harmed by a drunk driver, or by anyone who breaks the law and causes property damage, personal injury, and so on. I think we can all agree that the law needs to hold people accountable for the harm they cause, and most people agree that the law should take some steps to prevent harm from happening, that's why we have traffic laws in the first place. The financial penalties for speeding or running a red light are meant to encourage good driving habits that keep everyone safer.

DUI penalties are meant to do the same thing. The question is, how far should the law go? What's a "fair" level of intrusion or penalty for discouraging potentially harmful decisions? Right now, the lawmakers and judges in Alberta have decided that it is "fair" to allow the Calgary Police and other law enforcement agencies to stop and question drivers even when they are obeying all laws, and that it is "fair" to impose penalties even before someone is found guilty of a crime. I respectfully disagree.

We might not think this is truly fair, but it is the legal environment in which we must operated today.

Contact a Calgary DUI Defence Lawyer Today

The law also entitles you to speak with a defence lawyer any time you're arrested or accused of a crime, including impaired driving or DUI charges. For a free initial consultation with Calgary defence lawyer Susan Karpa, contact her office today.